“All truths pass through three stages. At first they are ridiculed. Then they are violently opposed. Finally, they are accepted as self-evident.” - Arthur Schopenhauer, philosopher.
If Esperanto becomes one of the EU’s official languages it will, not least because it is so easy to learn, make English and the other EU languages redundant in a decade or so. For which language should a German, an Englishman and a Frenchman debate in? The EU should have ONE working language, not several. Most people who currently work for the EU are accustomed to studying languages and would quickly pick up Esperanto.
The EU has 20 official workings languages. I suggest that that EU should have one additional official language, Esperanto, by 2007, and thereafter not accept any further new working languages. New countries that join the EU will have to use Esperanto or one of the other working languages.
The benefits of this would be enormous. The interest for Esperanto in Europe and the rest of the world will increase dramatically when it acquires official status as an international working language. As it is so easy to learn, added to a number of other advantages, Esperanto would soon replace the other working languages.
If a decision is not reached, the cost of this decision will increase yearly.
It should be further agreed that the sessions of the EU should not be translated after 2040. The delegates who do not speak Esperanto will have to bring their own interpreters and translators. All laws and documents should only be written in Esperanto by that time. If a country wants something translated they will have to see to that themselves. Interpreters for communication with other speech-areas will be necessary; if the EU has used Esperanto for 33 years, many people around the world will have learned the language. We must not forget how large the EU will be by then and how great an importance it will have in the world economy.
Work within the EU will become easier and a lot of money will be saved if Esperanto is to become a relay-language for interpretation and translation from 2007. It will no longer be necessary with interpreters for all language combinations. Instead, it will suffice with interpreters who translate from Esperanto to their own mother tongue. It has been shown that interpreters swiftly learn Esperanto because the words stem from international roots, especially Latin and romance languages. The grammar is also very simple.
Esperanto is well suited to use as an intermediate language in computer translations, since it is a very exact and logical language with few synonyms.
Many translations will still have to be made in the future, even if all the negotiations, minutes etc in the EU are done in Esperanto. Documents that are important to the people in the different member states must be translated. Yet the need for simultaneous interpretation as well as translation will decrease and eventually die out completely as more and more politicians and regular people learn Esperanto. If Esperanto becomes the working language of the EU many will quickly learn the language, whilst new generations will learn it in school.
If the EU begins to use Esperanto it will be necessary to create a service centre for terminology in association with the Universala Esperanto-Asocio. Even though Esperanto has existed for 115 years, it has weaknesses in some areas. For instance, it lacks some words and terms for medical and socio-political concepts, for different technical processes, for parts of machinery etc.
Problems of this kind are also likely to occur with the upcoming extension of the EU. Parallels can be drawn with the translation problems that arose when Chinese and Arabic became official languages of the UN. The translators had to create a great quantity of new words and expressions.
The tradition of creating new words and expressions in Esperanto stretches back more than a hundred years. It is generally easier to create new words in Esperanto than it is in other languages, thanks to the way in which the language is constructed.
Of the entire world's languages, English is arguably the richest in vocabulary. The compendious Oxford English Dictionary lists about 500,000 words; and a further half-million technical and scientific terms remain uncatalogued. According to traditional estimates, German has a vocabulary of about 185,000 and French fewer than 100,000.
All sciences have a core of Latin terms and when new scientific and technical English words are made, they are generally based on Latin or Greek. Some examples of such words are: digital, television, buss, industry and diet. Since Esperanto above all is based on Latin, it will be easy to transfer English technical and scientific terms to Esperanto. About 60% of the words in English are of Latin origin.
When Esperanto becomes the common working language of the EU, many EU-delegates as well as budding politicians will swiftly learn it. The EU-politicians who speak Esperanto will be able to uphold important contacts outside the session rooms. The important and most significant contacts are often made in offices, by telephone, at lunches and other informal meetings.
Compare this to the current situation in the EU. There is neither the time nor the resources to translate everything that is said, which results in that many delegates are forced to try and understand as much as possible from for example the English translation. The risk of misinterpretations in the current system is further increased by the lack of interpreters, which forces the existing ones to depend on the translation made by another interpreter to another language.
It is realistic to introduce Esperanto as the first foreign language in all EU schools from 2008. Language teachers are a knowledgeable group, who would quickly learn the new language on the basis of their previous knowledge. The education of this group, as well as of others who are interested, ought to a large extent be done through correspondence courses, local study groups and television.
When Esperanto has become the first foreign language in EU schools all schoolchildren will in a few years time be able to speak, correspond and understand one another, regardless of their mother tongue. Interpreters in the EU would be unnecessary within a few decades, which would mean that the work there would go much more smoothly, be more democratic and last but not least, be billions of euros cheaper. More democratic, since many delegates of today who have English as their second language are unable to or do not dare to debate against native speakers. They choose instead to be quiet, according to eyewitness account from members of the EU-parliament. Interpreters are not always available. More democratic because normal people could easily follow what was occuring in the EU administration, which would dispel or at least lessen the feeling of alienation many feel towards the EU.
If the youth of the EU is to learn another language apart from Esperanto, why should that language be English? The reason for English to be a compulsory language will disappear. Why not make the second foreign language a free choice dependant on resources available locally, if we want the European young to learn two foreign languages? Many will probably want to learn English, whilst others might wish to study French or Chinese. As we have many immigrants in the EU, some might want to learn the languages of their ancestors. All this will sow the seeds for an increased cultural exchange and lots of influences from and to the rest of the world.
Are we to isolate ourselves from the English speaking world? Absolutely not! They will come to accept that English is no longer an international language (which it has never truly been) in the same way as we have had to accept that our languages are not international languages. They will have to accept that Esperanto is the international language and they will learn it. Then our relations will we be on an equal basis.
I believe that when ordinary people are given the opportunity through Esperanto to speak and understand and discuss with people in other countries, this will increase the interest in other countries and cultures, which will bring a greater interest in languages. Only now one will not only learn English, German, French and Spanish but also languages such as Danish, Slovenian, Arabic and Estonian. In my youth I met a dockworker in Stockholm who studied Spanish. Why? After reading Cervantes book Don Quixote he had become interested of the Spanish language as well as the culture and furthermore, he wanted to be able to read Don Quixote in the original language. We will see more of this after the introduction of Esperanto.
If not challenged by the international language Esperanto, English will become the international language of the world, or at least the EU within the next half century. If not all compulsory education in the EU is taught in English, only an elite of linguists will master the language amongst those EU countries who do not have English as their first language. Yet such a measure would put the native languages and their adjoining cultures firmly in the backwater.
General American, i.e. North American English, ought to be used in teaching English, as it is the most useful version of the language in an increasingly international world, with boundaries diminishing, with advanced research and an increasingly internationalised entertainment industry.
If the EU chooses Esperanto as its working language, Esperanto will become so important that it will become a part of the general educational system in the whole world.
Many educated Africans support Esperanto. They claim that Esperanto alone can free them from the languages imposed upon them by their former colonial overlords, by giving them a language in which they can communicate with other countries as equals. Africa has twenty times as many spoken languages as Europe, despite having a roughly similar population size. Introducing Esperanto would be a gesture of goodwill and solidarity towards the small and poor countries around the world. Poor countries can ill afford to have students study English for several years, especially as most of them will have no use of their knowledge.
Many schools around the world have already brought Esperanto on to their syllabuses. There are 110 universities in 22 countries that teach Esperanto, among others China, South Korea, Brazil, France and Japan.
It has been predicted that Chinese will be the largest language on the Internet by 2008. It is not impossible that China will have superceded the American hegemony as a scientific and trading nation within as little as twenty years. There are three times as many native Chinese speakers as there are native English speakers. Is it credible that the Chinese will publish their scientific discoveries etc. in English? No; we will have to learn Chinese, if we do not promote Esperanto. The current Chinese leadership has a positive attitude towards Esperanto as an international language. This is shown by the publishing of at least three magazines in Esperanto, as well as by the daily radio broadcasts in Esperanto from Beijing.
We have a responsibility, not only to ourselves but also towards future generations. What sort of a world do you want to pass on? Do you want most languages to be considered second-rate in a world where the elite speak English and Chinese? Do you want the future generations of most countries to spend large portions of their schooling trying to learn such elite languages without fully succeeding? Do you want the different cultures of the world to be increasingly influenced by Anglo Saxon culture, Chinese culture or the culture of another large language? You have a responsibility. Choose path. Choose which language you want to support. If you choose to support a multi-lingual and multi-cultural world, your choice will lead you to support Esperanto. There is no alternative. Choose path. Choose language. Tomorrow will be too late. Don’t be a part of the problem; be a part of the solution.
Please do not misunderstand me. I have nothing against the English or Chinese languages or the cultures they represent. But there must be room for other languages and other cultures.
Generations come and go. We should strive to leave a better world behind us. A world where all people can speak with each other freely, without language barriers. A world with many cultures, many languages and many differences but also with a common language.
The day when we meet in a common language, that day the opportunities will increase drastically for that we one day will see each other as neighbours, that we one day will understand each other and that we one day will forgive each other.
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The UN has great language difficulties
© Hans Malv, 2004